Socio-ecological Union

The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia -- Issue N3 (37), January, 2003

SEU Times is a newsletter devoted to environmental news, events, NGO work within former Soviet Union territory. Currently it is mailed out on special occasions.

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Unique European Forest Logged in Belarus

Belovezhskaya Pushcha Is Sold For Export

  Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the oldest remains of European forests with centuries old trees.

  Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus), the UNESCO's Area of World Heritage is under the threat of complete destruction because of current methods of "managing" by this protected area. The new "managers", who were appointed on the posts of the heads of the park, give orders to cut live forest, send old-growth pines and spruces to saw mill, where it turns into timber, and sale it including for export.

  In 1994, when the National park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" (dense forest) was handed over to the command of the Administrative department of the President of Belarus, the park has began to turn into commercial use, the intensive economic activity to receive commercial income had started there. The directors had been appointed to the park, who had no relation before to reserves and nature conservation at all. Gradually the national park was turned into a kind of agricultural, commercial and industrial complex.

  The culmination of all this story in 1998 became the project of construction of the large wood-working shop in the Kamenyuki village, the central manor of the park. For purchase of power-saw bench the great sum - more than $1,5 millions was taken credit. But íowever the plan have not justified itself, and the park has got into debts.

  To resolve the deadlock in May 2001 the new heads of the Administrative department of the President has appointed Nikolay Bambiza on the post of the general director of the park. Mr. Bambiza is well known to the Belorussian public after scandalous publications about cutting down of unique Pripyat flood-plain oak woods when he was the general director of Pripyat national park (by the way, under his management in this park also the big woodworking enterprise was built).

  Since the his first days of work Nikolay Bambiza had imposed to the reserve (which has old traditions of nature conservation) the policy of a timber enterprise: to cut down live forest. The new head of reserve after his first visit to the Pushcha had ordered to cut down the old trees with signs of diseases, shrinkage of tops and weakening. The foresters were shocked with such turn-up.

  In addition to that all, the burst of mass reproduction of trunk vermin of spruce - the timber-beetle - had began. The instruction was given to clear-cut the damaged areas. In these areas live forest which is situated in a natural managing area was included. It was done without any official sanction, even without coordination with Academic Council of the park and the Academy of Science.

  Then the management decided to introduce the timber enterprise methods of forestry and to organize final sanitary fellings in Primeval forest. The commission was created in a hurry, the clear-cut of the first 50 hectares in protected area was substantiated, the sanction of the Ministry of Nature Resources and the Ministry of Forestry Economy was received. The ecologists and journalists, gathered at this time on seminar on ecotourism have saved the situation.

  Not only nature is responsible for the mass affection of spruce-groves of Belovezhskaya Pushcha by timber-beetle. The commission have revealed many troubles of the technology of logging in conditions of affection by timber-beetle. Within months the wood from allotments was not taken out. Though there was no official sanction for sanitary clear-cuts of forest, the woodcutters under a verbal order of the director already logged live trees, which had no even slightest signs of affection by beetle.

  No measures were undertaken for pest control except clear-cuts. In especially protected areas in Europe loggings are not conducted in general for conservation of the biological diversity. The nature copes with bursts of number of bark beetles by itself. Nevertheless, destruction of Belovezhskaya Pushcha proceeds. Those who has not agreed with policy of the new administration of the park, including the most competent experts, were simply fired. Access of public and journalists in Belovezhskaya Pushcha is practically closed now. In addition the management forbid the workers of the park to give even the most usual information. The loggings of live forest weren't stopped, they are classified as a secret now.

  In the spring 2002 as the trap trees for the bark beetle 3500 cubic meters of spruce were cut down. For this purpose, however, not the worst small-dimension trees were taken, but and excellent old-growth forest was cut down. As a result, hundreds of old trees were logged, absolutely healthy and generically most valuable, among them there were spruce-giants. Exactly these trees create uniqueness of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

  Old live pines with wood of best quality are also cut down. In the summer there were loggings of these trees on the area of the windfall during cleaning of the forest after hurricane. In the autumn the mass cutting down of giant pines had began. Now complete cutting down of the best old-growth forest goes with all its might.

  Even the constant plots were cut down, which within last 30-40 years were the areas for realization of scientific monitoring. Those areas are of great value for science and have the certificate of UNESCO given for the biosphere reserve.

  The gross breaches of technology of logging are continued in conditions of mass reproduction of timber-beetle. The logged wood is not taken out within months; more than 80 thousand cubic meters of this wood are piled up on the clearings. The timber mill is also filled up with round timber, there is no place to put it any more. Wood decays and becomes worthless. Even trap trees were not taken out in time and were not debarked. The question arises, what for they were cut down then? Evidently, to breed more bark beetle?

  At the same time volumes of cuts constantly increase and at the end of 2002 they made up 56600 cubic meters for quarter.

  The community of Belarus and inhabitants of Belovezhskaya Pushcha tried more than once to inform the President of Republic of Belarus, but it hadn't resulted in any changes for the best. There is an impression, that the head of the state receives inadequate information, and many facts of abusing are misrepresented and kept back.

  In January twelve journalists of Belarusian and Russian media addressed to Head of UN representative office in Belarus Neil Bune with proposal to organize join press-tour to Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. "This letter, - they write - we address, assuming our civil and professional duty - to know the truth in order to write the truth. This talk is about the object of World Human Heritage - biosphere reserve "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".

  Head of the UN representative office in Minsk Neil Bune agreed to take participation in dialogs between public and Belarusian authorities on the problems of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. He declared this in Minsk on January 13 during a meeting with the editor-in-chief of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" Newspaper, head of public ecological initiation "Terra-Kanvencyay" Valery Dranchuk.

  For further information:
Heorhi Kazulka, the candidate of biology (Ph.D. on biology),
Belovezhskaya Pushcha,
Kamenyuki village, Kamenetz district,
Brest region, Belarus 225063
The Campaign for protection of Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the website of ISEU:

  How you can help.
  In this case, the best way is to spread the word, to get the issue out to the media. The regime in Belarus is not very cooperative, so the best way (at least for now) is publicity.

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  This issue was written and complied by
  Sviatoslav Zabelin - the SEU Council Co-Chair,
  Olga Berlova, Victoria Kolesnikova
  Previous Issues of The SEU Times may be found at
  "The Online Gadfly" at